I booked a tour with a Japanese company several weeks ago to go see Kayangel, which is the northernmost island in Palau. I had never been, but heard it's beautiful. Palau is made up of hundreds of small islands and although I saw quite a lot while I lived here, there are still many places I need to explore.
The Japanese company was the only one I could find that travels to Kayangel. A friend told me several years ago to avoid booking anything through them if I could help it because no one with the company really speaks English so it's difficult for English speakers to coordinate any excursions.
I went for it anyway. The website was lovely. It contained some basic English translation, including, mysteriously and in large red letters: "PRIVILEGES: Booking and receive cookie present!"
Obviously once I saw that I had to make some arrangements. I emailed them--something short and simple. "We would like to go to Kayangel. There are 3 of us."
They wrote back: "Yes Kayangel. You are thank you."
It felt a lot like when the aliens and Amy Adams tried to communicate with one another in Arrival.
Eventually we seemed to have agreed on a place and time, and over the next several weeks Krishelle, Skylar, and I talked nearly endlessly about how excited we were to receive cookie present!
I was 15% sure no one would come pick us up the morning we had been told someone would come pick us up. Not because I thought it was a scam, but because I very don't speak Japanese and they seem to very not speak English, and I don't have a lot faith in arrangements made between strangers on the internet who plan to meet because y'all I used Tinder for like 2 years.
But to our delight, a Japanese van with the steering wheel on the right side showed up at 7:45 on the dot and drove us an hour north to the top of the big island.
I just made Palau sound big when I told you we drove for an hour. For clarity, the national speed limit is 25 MPH in most places. We are staying in the southernmost hotel on the main islands. We drove to the northernmost point on the main islands. We traveled about 25 miles.
Our guide gathered us in a boat with two other Japanese couples. He spoke roughly 30 English words, which is roughly 29 more words than any of us can speak in Japanese so nobody here is pointing fingers. He would seemingly yell a complex series of instructions and information at the other couples, and then turn to us and politely whisper while excessively bowing, "thank you. We ride boat now. Thank you. Thank you much."
We loved him.
He took us to some snorkeling spots in the middle of nowhere and I think it is 100% a miracle we were not eaten by all of the sharks in the Pacific Ocean.
By the way, our guide had the ability to swim 15 feet under water for like 3 minutes at a time. He would blow these circle bubbles perfectly around the fish who seemed to know him personally. Skylar thinks he's a mermaid and spent the majority of the day staring longingly at him. Skylar 100% would have left me for him if he wasn't so anxious to get back home to Duncan.
We rode some more in the boat and then we pulled over to go fishing. Skylar caught 4. I caught zero. Skylar has been referring to this more often than it is funny.
And finally we made it to Kayangel to cook up the fish for lunch. Kayangel is made up of a group of very small islands, most uninhabited, surrounded by white sand beaches and crystal clear warm water. On one of the islands we wandered to a house where a man fed us coconuts and bananas he had grown. We helped him feed some fruit bats he had in cages. A dog followed us through the jungle as we explored. It was nearly the furthest I've ever felt from home.
It's amazing how insignificant things that cause me daily stress can sometimes seem.
At the end of the day it was time to get on the boat for the most violent one-hour boat ride back to the main islands. It legitimately felt like riding one of those mechanical bulls in a trashy bar. We huddled at the back of the boat, water pouring on us, making whimpering noises the entire way back.
I never thought it was possible to feel cold in Palau until yesterday.
We arrived at the dock where our bus transport drove us the hour back home through the dark as the sun had now set. By the time we arrived at our hotel all three of us were desperate for a shower and clean clothes.
We were happy we did it. And relieved it was over.
So relieved that we forgot to notice we never received a single cookie present.
~It Just Gets Stranger